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Press Release No. 47 | 11 November 2013
DFG Establishes 10 New Research Training Groups

Topics Range from Biomembrane Research and Particle Physics to Traffic Management / 33 Million Euros in Funding

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) is establishing 10 new Research Training Groups (RTGs) to further support early career researchers in Germany. This decision was made by the relevant Grants Committee in Bonn. The RTGs will receive funding of approximately 33 million euros for an initial period of four and a half years. In addition to the 10 new awards, the Grants Committee approved the extension of 13 RTGs for another four and a half years. Research Training Groups offer doctoral researchers the chance to complete their doctorates in a structured research and qualification programme at a high academic level.

The topics covered by the new RTGs range from crosstalk between fat cells and the brain to "social cars". One of the new RTGs, "Immune Response in Infectious Diseases – Regulation between Innate and Adaptive Immunity", is a multi-site group located at three different institutions, the University of Duisburg-Essen (host university) and the universities of Bochum and Düsseldorf. The option of applying for multi-site RTGs has been available since the programme was first introduced in 1990 and is regularly used to enable fields represented by only a few researchers at a given university to achieve the necessary "critical mass". The Senate and Grants Committee also approved the continued acceptance of proposals for multi-location Research Training Groups if such an arrangement is appropriate to the research content and the participants make suitable arrangements for practical collaboration between institutions. In this way, innovative concepts can be developed for collaboration between universities.

In total the DFG is currently funding 225 RTGs, including 47 International Research Training Groups (IRTGs); the 10 new groups will commence work in spring 2014.

The new Research Training Groups (in alphabetical order by host university)

The research programme of the Research Training Group "Cultural and Technological Significance of Historic Buildings" is concerned with the overlap between art, technology and society. The researchers in Cottbus intend to study building structures, their creation and their evolution from ancient times to the 20th century in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. In this context, historical buildings are understood as elements of cultural value systems and testimonies to technological and artistic achievement. Specifically, the RTG is concerned with such different aspects as the genealogy of different building cultures, the large construction site as a cultural-historical phenomenon, and the instruments of building.
(Host University: Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus–Senftenberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus Rheidt)

Infectious diseases, one of the most common causes of death worldwide, remain a major challenge in medicine and infection biology. In spite of intensive research in this field, effective treatments and preventive vaccines are only available for a small number of pathogens. Immune response has a decisive influence on the progress of an infection. In the immune reaction of a host to a pathogen, a distinction is usually made between innate and adaptive immunity, and research has traditionally followed this distinction. The Research Training Group "Immune Response in Infectious Diseases – Regulation between Innate and Adaptive Immunity" will examine more closely the interplay between innate and adaptive immunity in relation to infectious diseases.
(Host University: University of Duisburg-Essen, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Jörg Timm, Participating Institutions: University of Bochum, University of Düsseldorf)

"Dynamic Interactions at Biological Membranes – From Single Molecules to Tissue" is the name of a new Research Training Group in Erlangen-Nuremberg. The group will investigate interactions between lipids and proteins, the two main components of biological membranes. The researchers will analyse the mechanisms on which the localisation of lipids and proteins in membranes is based. They will also investigate the relationships between specific membrane compositions and membrane dynamics. In this way the RTG hopes to gain new insights into the determining structural and functional aspects of membrane-bound and membrane-supported biological processes and thus a more detailed understanding of molecular processes on and in plasma membranes.
(Host University: University of Erlangen-Nuremberg,Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Rainer A. Böckmann)

Respiratory infections are one of the greatest health risks facing the general population. The treatment of such adaptable pathogens as pneumococci is fraught with difficulties, particularly as they spread so quickly, even in hospitals. Some of these pathogens also possess natural resistance to most antibiotics and could rapidly develop into a pandemic. In order to develop new treatment strategies and effective vaccines, we need a better understanding of how bacteria adapt to new habitats inside the host. That is the aim of the Research Training Group "Bacterial Respiratory Infections – Common and Specific Mechanisms of Pathogen Adaption and Immune Defence". The group consists of researchers specialising in infection biology, microbiology, immunology, functional genome research and bioinformatics.
(Host University: University of Greifswald, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Sven Hammerschmidt)

The Research Training Group "Particle Physics beyond the Standard Model" is concerned with experimental and theoretical particle physics. Using precision measurements in the standard model, particularly in the Higgs sector, the participating researchers in Heidelberg intend to verify or generate theories with the help of astroparticle physics and cosmological measurements and direct searches in very high energy tests. This places the research in the overlap between several different areas of experimental and theoretical particle physics. Modellers and theoreticians will be working side by side to render the complex theories usable for experimental purposes.
(Host University: University of Heidelberg, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Tilman Plehn)

In the engineering sciences, increasing miniaturisation, new materials and ever more complex production processes are giving rise to a need for the development and application of stochastic models that incorporate random influences. This in turn produces exciting new challenges in mathematics. The Research Training Group "Stochastic Models for Innovations in the Engineering Sciences" adopts an interdisciplinary approach. The participating researchers, from the fields of mathematics and engineering sciences, intend to demonstrate the innovation potential of stochastic models in the engineering sciences and their potential as a source of inspiration for new developments in applied mathematics.
(Host University: Technical University of Kaiserslautern, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Ralf Korn)

The objective of the Research Training Group "Interaction of Grammatical Building Blocks" is to investigate phonology, morphology and syntax and their interfaces using a range of typologically different languages. While the study of these form-oriented components of grammar has been somewhat neglected in Germany in recent years, it has received considerable impetus on an international level through recent developments. But even internationally, there are only hypotheses as to how grammatical building blocks – rules, operations, restrictions, schemas and non-language factors – interact with one another. As yet there has been no comprehensive, systematic investigation of the possible interactions of grammatical components. The RTG in Leipzig intends to close this gap.
(Host University: University of Leipzig, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Gereon Müller)

The new Research Training Group "Adipocyte – Brain - Crosstalk" will analyse adipokines – hormones secreted by adipose tissue. They regulate the body's food intake and energy consumption through the central nervous system. To achieve this, adipose tissue and the brain communicate not only neuronally, but also endocrinally (through the bloodstream). This communication is known as crosstalk. Problems affecting crosstalk are implicated in conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. By investigating crosstalk, the team of medical scientists in Lübeck intends to achieve a better understanding of these conditions.
(Host University: University of Lübeck, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Hendrik Lehnert)

In a world that has been described as post-humanist, the life sciences are central to our understanding of what it means to be human. As new possibilities in biomedicine push the boundary experiences of human life – medically assisted reproduction or intensive care prior to death, for example – the humanities and cultural sciences are called upon to offer complementary access routes to these boundary experiences. Competing perspectives have emerged: the scientific, medical approach (life science) and the cultural, sociological approach (life writing). The Research Training Group "Life Sciences, Life Writing: Boundary Experiences of Human Life between Biomedical Explanation and Lived Experience" intends to develop joint methodological approaches.
(Host University: University of Mainz, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr. Norbert W. Paul)

The Research Training Group "SocialCars" is concerned with new methods and applications in decentralised cooperative traffic management in urban spaces. These are made possible by new technological developments such as car-to-X communication. The research programme is primarily dedicated to cooperative traffic management in the area of overlap between traditional central traffic control and decentralised regulation involving the inclusion of individual traffic participants. This area also includes communication systems linking vehicles with the transport infrastructure. The researchers will also examine how urban traffic can be managed such as to minimise environmental pollution.
(Host University: Niedersachsen Institutes of Technology, Spokesperson: Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernhard Friedrich)

Further Information

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Further information will also be provided by the spokespersons of the Research Training Groups.

Contact at the DFG Head Office:

Additional information about the funding programme and current Research Training Groups is available at: